The Circle review

A former assistant to celebrated Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami (The White Balloon), Jafar Panahi returns with this compelling portrait of the brutal discrimination endured by women in his native country.

Beginning with the sound of a screaming baby and ending in a darkened police cell, the film is set during a 24-hour period and follows a number of working-class women in the Iranian capital. Among them are a trio of escaped cons, a prostitute and a mother who has abandoned her child: all are denied certain rights, such as the permission to travel alone or to seek an abortion without male approval.

This is admirably sparse film-making, with little dialogue and direct street sound rather than a musical score. As the camera roams round downtown Teheran, Panahi cuts at unexpected moments to the next woman in the narrative chain, masterfully wringing the maximum tension from the plight of his marginalised characters.

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